eSports: The sport of competitive gaming | Sunday Observer

eSports: The sport of competitive gaming

5 December, 2021

Esports is most commonly described as organized competitive video gaming and in recent years, has slowly established itself as a respectable form of competition worthy of mainstream attention. What used to be an oft mocked hobby and niche community is now a billion dollar industry consistently drawing in hundreds of millions of viewers all around the world.

Top eSports athletes have made careers out of competing for significant cash prizes and prestige that now matches and sometimes even surpasses that of traditional sports. Esports and competitive gaming as a whole has made it clear with its growth, support and popularity that it is to be taken seriously.

Relatively young

Video games as a concept itself is relatively young, with barely half a century’s history under its belt. Competitive gaming is even younger. Before it was a mainstream spectator sport, competitive gaming was cultivated in tiny arcades during the 70s. SEGA organized local arcade competitions all over Japan to promote new games, even gathering winners together for a larger tournament, with hefty prizes and serious news coverage.

The retro classic Space Invaders and its high score feature inspired the first truly mainstream eSports tournament, with over 10,000 participants, and things only skyrocketed from there. While beating high scores was the way of competitive gaming in the 80s, the legendary fighting game classic Street Fighter II ushered in a new form of competitive gaming in the 90s that pitted players directly against each other.

The 2000s further popularized esports, with the advent of the internet creating more avenues for people to enjoy competitive video gaming. It was during this time that the term eSports was first coined in South Korea, to both promote and regulate the rampant popularity of multiplayer competitive gaming that followed its financial crisis leading to many unemployed youths looking for something to do.

By the time the 2010s rolled in, eSports became much stronger with many large scale associations like MLG and World Cyber Games popping up that provided much needed stability and support to the competitors, allowing them to pursue eSports as a career and overall raising the level of competition. In 2016, the League of Legends Championship sold out live venues like 15,000-seat Los Angeles’ Staples Center, and the 40,000-seat Seoul World Cup Stadium, solidifying eSports as a spectator sport that can rival and even surpass traditional mainstream sporting events.

The greatest strength of eSports is its accessibility, at least on paper. Especially in comparison to traditional physical sports, anyone of any age, physical constitution or gender can be good at gaming, and as a result should be able to theoretically find success in competitive gaming. However, in practice this is far from the truth.

On the basest level, only a miniscule portion of gamers can ever find enough success in eSports to pursue it as a career, requiring talent and dedication that is comparable to top athletes. Esports is not sustainable as a career either, with a majority of competitors being youths below 30, and those that age beyond that find themselves hitting physical barriers that no longer allow them to compete with younger, more energetic competitors.

While gender is technically not a barrier to being a good gamer, eSports are historically dominated by men and it’s nearly impossible for female gamers to find a foothold among the hostility, sexism and harassment they experience from the disproportionately male community, regardless of actual skill level.